CIO: Do you think having a combination of offline and online channel helped grow Shaadi.com's revenues?
Anupam Mittal: It's helped us in a couple of ways. Initially we had a tremendous brand challenge. People believed that we were doing something culturally irreverent.
We were trying to go against the grain--a thousand year old tradition in India and trying to automate something people consider very holy. It was almost considered blasphemous.
So I think for us to build an offline channel comprising Shaadi centers was a way to gain credibility and telling people we are for real. It was a strategy to provide more comfort to people. In the last few years, we have found that our revenues from these centers has climbed, and that's because the centers were able to reach certain pockets the website couldn't. So we do a lot of local marketing in order to invite people to these centers and walk them through our products. Each of our centers today run a lucrative business, and it has worked really well for us. In the next year, we are going to think really hard about our strategy for offline and might even double the number of Shaadi centers from the current total.
CIO: So are you thinking of monetizing from the offline channel more than online?
Anupam Mittal: Well, online has its benefits. But I don't think our offline channel is ever going to become a major part of our business. The offline channel is only a misnomer because everything is really online since all our businesses are all driven by technology. Moreover for us, offline is a sales distribution channel since no major services are offered from these centers. The truth is we will continue to be an Internet company. But since our centers are running well and growing, I don't see any harm in having 200 centers across the county which will continue to provide a human interface for users who may or may not be technology ready for such a portal.
CIO: Indian e-commerce has gone through a complete turnaround. What's your view on it? How has this turnaround impacted your business?
Anupam Mittal: The best way to describe my view is through an example: You can jump as high as you want in a room with a 10 foot ceiling, but you're not going to jump higher than that. So you can keep trying but you're only going to break your head.
Similarly, when we started, the market sizes were limited, our target audience was limited, so there's only so much we could as expand in multiple categories. But when you are trying to grow the market with supply constraints and limited Internet access-- that defines how big your opportunity is.
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